Essie was born in 1884. She was my great grandmother and a source of fascination for me as a child.

When visited her home as a young girl, I marvelled at the glass prisms lining her windows and the rainbows cast along her walls. Essie served sultanas and pink marshmallow cookies sprinkled with coconut. She’d sit patiently, eyes closed behind her wire-rimmed glasses, while I brushed her hair. I was nine years old and she was ninety.

In 1916, a high fever resulting from the Spanish flu epidemic caused her hair to fall out. It grew back jet black and remained that colour through her entire life. She never had a single grey hair.

After the passing of my great grandfather, she continued to live in their modest home situated on a hilltop in the southern Ontario village of Vienna. A corner of the foundation sunk into the ground leaving the house on a permanent tilt. She hand-pumped water into the porcelain sink and stored food in a root cellar beneath the dinner table.

Near the end, she drifted to her own childhood. She’d smile and in a quiet voice would tell us, “Father is taking me to the fair.”

Note: The photo shown above is of an original framed photograph taken of Essie when she was four years old.